Commentary Magazine


Competing Chamberlains and a Churchill

“[C]ompeting Chamberlains and the hope of a Churchill.” That’s how Middle East expert Bernard Lewis described the choices on offer in America’s upcoming presidential elections. Not much need to spell out who’s who, is there?

Bernard Lewis should be able to spot Churchills and Chamberlains easily enough. At 91, he boasts a 60-plus-year-career as a political observer. (Furthermore, he was a Jewish Brit who lived through World War II.)

He made the observation last week while speaking at the University of Pennsylvania. He was, of course, comparing Britain’s confrontation with the evil of Nazi Germany to the U.S.’s current conflict with evil in the form of radical Islam. Among other choice observations, he spoke about the “pre-emptive cringe” that prohibits good Westerners from speaking candidly about the Islamist nature of the enemy. Lewis also said that, from the extremists’ standpoint, the defeat of the Soviet Union represents a Muslim victory and “There now remains the task of dealing with the pampered Americans.”

Our Chamberlains are pretty vicious towards each other, considering their inclination towards appeasement. But Lewis’ point is an invaluable one. We’re so pampered we can’t bear to choose a leader without our entertainment being the top priority. With identity, dishonesty, and nastiness as the main concerns this election season, any discussion of issues makes voters change the channel. And a long-view reminder such as Lewis’ seems, sadly, out of place (or even histrionic) to many Americans. Here’s to Churchill rising.